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C.C. Hogan

Audiobook Recording Tips - Editing your recording

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Part of the series of tips on recording your book as an audiobook, this article covers questions about editing.

Should I remove all the breaths?

No. Breaths are a legitimate part of speech and can add emotion. Although you may want to remove most from the narrator, especially in short narrative sections, be careful of removing too many from dialogue. It might make it very bland.

Should I remove breaths from the front of lines?

This is probably from where you will remove most breaths, but be careful you do not destroy the emotion or shorten the gap after the previous line too much.

What do I do about loud breaths in the middle of a sentence?

There is nothing wrong with a breath in the middle of a line if it makes sense. if it is very loud, you may want to remove it, but do not remove the gap - fill with room tone.

I have removed a breath, but it now sounds cut off.

Sometimes you cannot remove a breath because it is too much part of the read. In this case, isolate it with your editor and lower the level of the breath considerably. It will be less intrusive and hopefully sound natural.

I have a breath in a strange place in a sentence, can I just cut it out?

If you are very lucky you can, but the chances are it will just sound odd. The best way of repairing this kind of problem is re-recording the line.

What is the perfect length of a pause?

There is no such thing. Pausing achieves several different things:

  • Denotes a change of scene
  • Allows the character to think before they speak
  • Breaks up complex ideas into bite-sized pieces

Exactly how long these pauses should be, is very difficult to pin down and is one of the many things that comes with experience. If in doubt, increase the length of the pause, then wind back a couple of sentences, play back, and stop when you feel the next line should start. That will probably be a good clue.

Also, if the next line seems to jump in, then your pause is too short.

I have removed breaths, now the pauses seem too long.

We don't really differentiate between a breath and a word when we listen, especially if it is a loud breath. Sometimes, when you remove the breath from the beginning of a section, the pause will now be too long. You probably need to shorten by the length of the breath. Caution, however, this can also increase the pace too much if done for every breath!

Do you ever put in sound effects?

Generally, the addition of sound effects and music to a straight audiobook is frowned upon. Many think they make an unnecessary distraction. Personally, I quite like them, certainly ambient sfx, but there is a problem. To get them right, you need a huge library of good effects which are expensive, otherwise, you will make your beautiful recording sound amateurish. It also takes a lot of time and skill to get right. In the context of this FAQ, I would tend to avoid them.

Is editing boring to do?

It can get tedious, but it is vitally important. Don't skip small problems through laziness, any more than when you proofread your book.

Do you every re-record?

Frequently. One advantage of recording your own work is that the voice over doesn't go home. If when you are editing, you are unhappy about something, it is often easier and better to re-record a line than to fiddle around trying to correct the problem.

How do I edit out mouth clicks?

This is fiddly. Mouth clicks are very short, however, if you just chop them out and join up the following audio, it might make the word jump. You can sometimes get away with cutting them out leaving a hole, but the better way is to put a cut just before the click, then add a very short fade-in to cover the click.

Don't spend hours at this - if you cannot get a satisfactory result, re-record.

I have a breath hard on the end of a word. How can I remove it?

Sorry, but there is a very good chance you can't. If the breath is actually joined onto the last sound of the word, then you will either end up with a nasty cut off, or lose part of the word. Also, the way you read that last sound would have been affected by the breath, so will sound odd without it.

You can sometimes get away with a quick fade, but if you can't live with the breath, the chances are you are re-recording.

Will I have to edit every gap in my recording?

Exactly how much you edit is up to you. However, if you commit to heavy editing, it can make the initial recording easier. If you know you will be spending time editing, then you can leave unnaturally long gaps between sentences to help with your breathing, and occasionally smack your lips!

I edit very heavily because I suffer from a dry mouth and I like to remove mouth noise. I also listen carefully to ALL breaths and decide whether to remove them (replacing with room tone), lower their level, clean them up or leave them. I believe all recordings should be treated like this.

How do I get the right EQ for my mix?

This is difficult, especially when dealing with your own voice!

Bass and treble is a very subjective thing, but you need to be aware of a few things. To start with, if you invest in very good quality speakers, which is worthwhile for editing, they are not necessarily very representative of how people will listen to your book. Many people will be listening on ear buds or headphones.

It is impossible to cater for everyone, so you need to find an average. Make sure you check your EQ against a couple of environments and speaker/headphone types. 

If you are a male or a female with a lower voice, you will probably want to roll off some mid frequencies, say around 1.5-2.0 khz, and a widish region, by 5 or 6db. You will also need to roll off everything below around 50-100hz and above 15khz, which is above the range most people can hear, especially when older.

Other than that, I suggest you listen to some of the better-produced books out there and compare them with your own sound.

Remember, messing around with bass and treble will not magically change your voice making it deep and sexy - it can only enhance what you already have! 

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